Why Should We Conform?

Veronica Vega

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos
Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — Everybody knows that death sustains life and that life sustains death. Maybe it´s because of this undeniable fact that a group of friends gathered together to remember the poet Juan Carlos Flores on the day that he would have turned 54 years old. We had an extraordinary experience.

Not just because we heard Juanka’s (his nickname) voice on the album “Vegas Town” and even the alarm on his watch went off, as if to say that he was there. Or because poetry was read, people were singing, doing spoken word performances, creating a buzzing creative atmosphere which reminded us of the times of La Bicicleta group, the Arte Nativa project, the Rap festival, the Poesia sin Fin festival. But because of the way that the words written in a post by my colleague Irina Echarry, who couldn’t make it to the meeting, were read:

“Alamar, at one point, was a neighborhood brimming with poets, painters and people belonging to alternative subcultures. A place where hope mixed with saltpeter and the energy that radiated from people was contagious. Suddenly, as if by magic, it became a great dump.”

We’re talking about how alternative projects were eradicated by an underhanded strategy of attrition. The discourse is varied, strategies transform, but the result is always the same: silence, apathy, death.

Alamar no longer has any events, be that official or underground, with the same magnetism that previous events that arose and grew had, feeding off of this outlying city’s enigmatic force, a city which was conceived for workers and authenticated by art. A curious phenomenon which can’t be seen in neighboring areas.

Amaury Pacheco spoke about his friends who were trying to create a Poetry festival in Miami and discovered that it doesn’t have the same spirit and is no longer the same cultural scene. Everything that has been created in Alamar was due to this idealism that many first-world citizens searched for in their travels across the country, in awe of the Cuban people’s warmth who create and resist without resources and with a wild imagination.

Examples were the literary workshop that Nancy Maestique and Pablo Rigal advised, where writers who are today well-renowned and have won many awards, came from; the Fayad Jamis gallery, which, like the poet-painter who it’s named after, searched for the meeting between art and literature; the OMNI-ZONFRANCA project, which used to spark passionate debates, performances which used to make the streets tremble, which converted poetry into a living experience, breaking through the apathy that poetry books in bookstore displays normally provoke, or the consumerist greed that Book Fairs awake.
Coming face to face with this undeniable fact that Alamar is no longer what it once was, the new city, without any architectural value or history, which is shouting out for a cultural identity but has become “a great dump”, we asked ourselves whether we should conform to this.
And we decided not to, because Juan Carlos Flores’ suicide could break the trance of separation and false indifference, survival’s never-ending trap, and bring us together for his funeral and his birthday.

We decided to create a new event named after one of his books: “El contragolpe“. A reaction against the apathy, helplessness, feeling like we’re really just garbage: left out, forgotten, abandoned.
We will now meet every October 29th to celebrate with Art, not the poet´s chosen death but his birth. For Death´s utmost role is to transform itself and become life.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.